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The Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Guide With Pros & Cons

The ketogenic diet (keto diet, for short) is a radical low carb, high fat diet that offers various health benefits. There are different ways to approach Keto dieting. Numerous studies show that this specific diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. Ketogenic diet is considered effective especially against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. Here is a detailed beginner’s guide to the keto diet.

Table of Contents

What is a ketogenic diet?

Ketogenic diet on a fundamental level is starving the body of carbohydrates to induce ketone metabolism. The logic behind this mechanism is complex but it can be summarised for the average person into a simpler form.

Keto basics

Ketogenic diet is a low carb/high fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins diet. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat and proteins. This method induces a metabolic state called ketosis in the human body.

When ketosis occurs, your body becomes remarkably efficient at burning fat and breaking down proteins for energy. This has a unique effect on the brain’s energy intake as it can only metabolise carbohydrates. Ketosis helps the brain’s energy intake by producing ketones that are carbohydrates distinct from glucose.

Due to the reduced intake of carbs in ketogenic diets, there are significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels.

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body switches to fat for fuel instead of carbs like in a regular body. It occurs when you reduce your consumption of carbohydrates, limiting your body’s supply of free glucose (sugar). It’s an evolutionary adaptation to help cope during food shortages where your body breaks down stored fats to compensate for the lack of free glucose.

A ketogenic diet is the most effective way to enter ketosis. Generally, this involves filling up on fats, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, healthy oils and limiting carb consumption to around 20 to 50 grams per day.

You also need to keep an eye on your protein intake. This is due to the fact that protein can be converted into glucose if there is a general scarcity of free glucose. Switching to protein metabolism for energy needs slows down the transition into ketosis and reduces the efficacy of a ketogenic diet.

Practising intermittent fasting can also help transition into ketosis. There are tons of forms of intermittent fasting methods available. The most common method is limiting food intake to around 8 hours and fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day.

It’s important to track your transition into ketosis. Blood, urine, and breath tests are available, which can help determine whether you’ve entered ketosis by measuring the amount of ketones circulating in your body.

Increased thirst, frequent urination, dry mouth, and decreased hunger or appetite are considered as signs of ketosis by many experts.

Types of ketogenic diets

There are several versions of the ketogenic diet. Each caters to a certain population because each of us has a different metabolic state in general. It’s not always obvious which metabolic state you’re in and that means your approach to achieving ketosis will vary greatly to the people around you.

1. Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This version of keto includes low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. Typically this would include around 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs in your entire diet.

2. Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periodically refeeding on carbs. For instance, 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.

3. Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This version involves carb intake proportional to the amount of exercise you get.

4. High protein ketogenic diet: In combination with the standard ketogenic diet, this version includes more protein. The ratio is mostly 60% fat, 35% protein, and less than 5% of carbs.

It’s important to mention that only the standard and high protein ketogenic diets were subjected to clinical studies. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced regimes which are specifically beneficial for bodybuilders and athletes. In this blog we mostly focus on the standard ketogenic diet (SKD).

Foods to avoid for Keto diet

Any food that’s high in carbs should be limited. This is the first step to switching to keto diet.

Here’s a general list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated for the purpose of ketogenic diet:

  • Grains and starch foods: Wheat-based products, Rice, Pasta, Cereal, etc.
  • Sugary foods: Fruit juice, Smoothies, Soda, Cake, Ice cream, Candy, etc.
  • Low fat/diet products: Low fat mayonnaise, Salad dressings, and Condiments
  • Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
  • Beans or Legumes: Peas, Kidney beans, Lentils, Chickpeas, etc.
  • Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips, etc.
  • Sugary condiments or sauces: Barbecue sauce, Teriyaki sauce, Ketchup, Honey mustard, etc.
  • Unhealthy fats: Processed vegetable oils, Mayonnaise, etc.
  • Alcohol: Wine, Liquor, Beers, Cocktails etc.
  • Sugar-free diet foods: Sugar-free candies, Syrups, Puddings, Sweeteners, Desserts, etc.

It’s especially important to avoid carb-based foods such as, sugars, legumes, rice, grains, potatoes, candy, juice, to ensure negative carb balance for your body. This is the primary way to switch to keto based metabolism.

Foods for Keto diet

While reducing the crb intake you need to supplement your body with enough high energy compounds to function and stay active. The following foods ensure a high level of energy output so you can make the ketogenic diet :

  • Eggs: Omega-3 rich whole eggs.
  • Meat: Red meat, ham, sausage, steak, chicken, bacon, and turkey
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, etc.
  • Fatty fish: salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel
  • Butter and cream: Grass-fed butter and Heavy cream
  • Cheese: Unprocessed cheeses like goat, cream, cheddar, blue, or mozzarella
  • Healthy oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, cod liver oil etc
  • Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole either is good.
  • Low carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments: Salt, herbs, spices, pepper etc.

The best practice is to base your diet mostly on whole, single-ingredient foods limiting processed items as much as possible.

Keto tips and tricks

The first few weeks are extremely challenging for the ketogenic diet. There are several tips and tricks that can make the switch easier for you The most common ones include:

It’s important to familiarise yourself with food labels and checking the fat, carbs, and fiber content of each item you pick. This is crucial for keeping track of how your favorite foods affect your diet.

Plan out your meals in advance. This makes keeping track of your intake easier so you can make necessary adjustments.

Try out keto-friendly recipes and meal ideas. Many websites, food blogs, apps, and cookbooks offer unique recipes that you can use to build a custom menu.

Some meal delivery services even offer keto-friendly options. This is a quick and convenient way to enjoy keto meals if you’re short on time.

If cooking and ordering is not your style you can look into frozen keto meals.While not nearly as healthy an option it can still suffice your keto diet need

When going to social gatherings or visiting friends and family, bringing your own food can make it much easier to curb cravings and stick to your meal plan.

PROS

Before committing to any drastic lifestyle change it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. To list the pros of switching to a ketogenic diet,

1. Weight Loss

According to Melinda R. Ring, MD, director of Northwestern Medicine, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, there is significant correlation between ketogenic diets and weight loss in overweight individuals.

Ketogenic diets help by making people feel less hungry. This is due to the fact that fatty foods take a longer time to break down. The weight loss effect of keto not only comes from ketosis, but also from reducing calorie intake.

2. No More Low-Fat

At face value, the idea of burning fats by eating more of them is enticing. Which is exactly why the ketogenic diet has become popular. The keto diet permits people to eat the types of high-fat foods that they love, for instance cheese, butter, red meats, fatty fish and nuts. While still maintaining a negative caloric balance needed for weight loss.

3. Health Benefits for Specific People

The keto diet has been shown to help reduce  epileptic seizures in pediatric patients. Endurance athletes and bodybuilders use keto diets to scrap body fat in short timeframes. The keto diet is currently being studied for the ability to mitigate symptoms for progressive neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. However, the research is yet to provide conclusive results in this regard.

CONS

Similar to the pros there are some crucial cons that you need to evaluate before committing. The most prominent cons include,

1. Difficult to Sustain

Because of the peculiar food restrictions, many find the keto diet hard to stick to. While the ketogenic diet can be effective for weight loss when carried out over a short time period, it is not meant to be followed for an extensive period. The ideal practice would be to maintain keto diet for a short period of time followed by the adoption of healthier eating habits in general. However, it lends itself to yo-yo dieting, which has the tendency to increase mortality.

Ketosis is especially difficult to achieve because it’s similar to a light switch: it’s either on or off. No in-betweens. Individuals who consistently track food intake are more likely to remain in ketosis. But the only way to tell for sure if your body is in ketosis is to get a blood test.

2. Calorie Depletion and Nutrient Deficiency

Because the keto diet is extremely restrictive, you’re probably going to fall short on the nutrients i.e vitamins, minerals, fibers that you get from vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits, and whole grains.

Due to being a low nutrition diet, people report feeling foggy and drained as a side-effect of Ketogenic diets. These symptoms are summed up as“the keto flu.” Constipation is also a common side effect of the keto diet due to the lack of dietary fiber.

3. Bad Fats in Practice

The high-fat nature of the ketogenic diet could be potentially harmful heart health. In practice, many people eat high amounts of saturated fats more often than not, which increases cardiovascular disease risk. The increase in lipids, or free fats, in the blood of patients on the keto diet within six to eight weeks. Is a given side effect of this.

4. Renal Risk

Patients with kidney disease have been found to require dialysis due to the keto diet. The additional ketones produced in the body apply added stress on the renal system, hence kidney patients ought to avoid ketogenic diet plans. Keto foods also cause dehydration because they require more water to be digested while ketosis eradicates glycogen, which holds water, from their bloodstream.

5. Food Obsession

“When you micromanage your food intake by tracking how much you eat, it disconnects you from what your body is asking for,” says Gomez. “You start using outside numbers to determine what to eat instead of listening to your body.”

Monitoring food so closely can lead to psychological distress, such as shame, and binge eating. Restriction can lead to bingeing, which often leads to guilt, which then leads back to restriction in a continuous cycle.

Dos and Don’ts of the Keto Diet

With a ketogenic diet plan, it is important to set yourself up for success from day ONE. Below we’ve included some dos and don’ts as you transition into the keto diet.

👍 Dos:

  • Healthy fats like eggs, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil are your keto buddies. Keep them high in your meals.
  • Choose low-carb greens as much as possible to maximize your nutrient intake.
  • Include berries that are the only source of fruit nutrient with regards to a keto diet plan.
  • As a rule of thumb avoid any kind of processed foods.
  • Source organic, grass-fed animal products as much as possible.
  • Compensate the increased thirst you’ll experience, with lots of water. Becoming dehydrated in the ketosis state can do more harm than good.
  • Maintain a detailed food journal to track your progress over time.
  • Modified the standard keto diet if the restrictions are too extreme for you.
  • Consult with your doctor before beginning. Especially if you have underlying medical conditions.
  • You should consider nutritional or health coaching to ensure staying informed and motivated.
  • Drink bone broth and eat nuts, seeds and cacao powder to replenish micro nutrients and essential minerals.

👎 Don’ts:

  • Pay special attention to your clinical history. People with pancreatic disease, liver conditions, thyroid problems, eating disorders, or gallbladder disease should not commit to ketogenic diets under any circumstances.
  • Avoid fast food as much as possible.
  • Avoid trans fats at all costs.
  • Avoid any processed food, especially the ones listed as low-fat.
  • Don’t overeat. The high satiety of keto-friendly food tends to make your place look emptier before mealtimes. It’s very important to see past this illusion.
  • Don’t stress out over your caloric intake. There’s no good reason or need to monitor your caloric intake if your macronutrient ratios are properly maintained.
  • Avoid ketogenic diet all together if your doctor suggests you to.

Ketogenic diets for diabetes and obesity related complications

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder involving high blood sugar, due to impaired insulin function.

The ketogenic diet helps you to lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type II diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome. An old study on ketogenic diet established that insulin sensitivity can increase by a staggering 75%.

A relatively small study in women with type 2 diabetes found that following a ketogenic diet for 90 days significantly reduced hemoglobin A1C levels. This is considered as a positive measure of long-term blood sugar management.

Similarly, a study on 349 people with type 2 diabetes found that following a ketogenic diet reduced 26.2 pounds on average (11.9 kg) over a 2-year time period. This is an important benefit of a ketogenic diet considering the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Moreover, the subjects experienced improved blood sugar management, and the requirement of certain blood sugar related interventions decreased among participants throughout the course of the study.

Ending Notes

Experts instead of a high-octane keto diet, recommend balanced approaches, like the Mediterranean diet, for long-term weight loss. With these diets you can still receive the benefits of ketosis while eating a varied and nutritious diet through intermittent fasting

Making small changes based on your health goals is the best thing you can do. All foods fit into a healthy diet as long as none of it is in excess. It’s a matter of moderation and finding ways to eat the foods you love without overindulging. The other half of the coin is to compensate with physical work out to keep the body at a negative caloric balance.

ketogenic diet
ketogenic diet
May 21, 2021

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